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Jeff Carter

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  1. Regarding what Robert Kennedy may have said in a 1964 interview, it worthwhile to recall he was still, at that point, Attorney General and member of LBJ’s cabinet, thus subject to direction as set out in paragraph 4 of NSAM 273: 4. The President expects that all senior officers of the Government will move energetically to insure the full unity of support for established U.S. policy in Vietnam. Both in Washington and in the field, it is essential the Government be unified. More detail on the development of NSAM 263, including more information on McNamara’s input both at the time and his recollections afterwards, can be found in James Galbraith’s Boston Review article "Exit Strategy" from 2003: https://www.bostonreview.net/articles/galbraith-exit-strategy-vietnam/ Noam Chomsky published a reply shortly after, many of which talking points have been repeated by the dissenting voice on this thread. Galbraith in turn replies to Chomsky: https://www.bostonreview.net/articles/chomsky-galbraith-letters-vietnam-jfk-kennedy/
  2. Giglio: “The 1,000-force cutback slated for the end of 1963 mostly involved a construction battalion that had completed its work; it was understood that it would be replaced by other troops…” John Newman’s “JFK and Vietnam” discusses in detail what happened to the 1000 man withdrawal, which was not carried out as envisioned (see 2017 edition Chapter 22 p529-532). This detail derives from the Honolulu Meeting Briefing Book (November 1963). Newman’s information substantially corrects and supplants what appears in the Pentagon Papers, which is missing three crucial documents regarding this issue (see footnote 1155). Giglio: “The recently published Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume 4, Vietnam, August-December 1963, further affirms the no-pullout conclusion.” This blanket statement offers no citations, and contradicts a close reading of the discussions which culminate in 263. A close reading leads to exactly the opposite conclusion. Piascik: “There is no evidence to indicate any plan for withdrawal short of victory. . . .” The evidence and the plan is known as NSAM 263 as seen below.. Does “without impairment of the war effort” actually mean “victory”? That could serve as a quibbling debate, but what I see is that the academic critics of the withdrawal plans prefer to avoid referring to the language altogether because it upends their concepts, and the changes represented by 273 appear too obvious. 2 A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time. 3 In accordance with the program to train progressively Vietnamese to take over military functions, the Defense Department should announce in the very near future presently prepared plans to withdraw 1000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963. This action should be explained in low key as an initial step in a long-term program to replace U.S. personnel with trained Vietnamese without impairment of the war effort.
  3. The non-public discussions are self-contradictory as well. You are twisting the focus of the debate (I.e. withdrawal or engagement) into a construct (i.e. to win or to lose) which is not relevant to the specific terms by which the policy (263) was developed. The specific terms dealt with the question of whether the United States military had a direct role to play in the Vietnam conflict. The determination, as unambiguously expressed by the actual language of 263, was it did not and thus the personnel would be withdrawn. The “unconditional-withdrawal myth” is something you made up. There’s nothing in Prouty or Newman’s extensive work which endorses this alleged “myth”. In fact, the expression of this “myth” which does appear in the record (with your preferred definition I.e. a complete withdrawal regardless or despite a Communist victory) is attributed to Robert McNamara, spoken during a classified debrief in October 1963 regarding his McNamara-Taylor trip to Vietnam. Over the past year, on this Forum, you have variously and erroneously attributed McNamara’s own words to Prouty, Newman, Galbraith, DiEugenio, and “JFK”’s screenwriters. The first sentence is about as disingenuous as you have ever posted on this Forum - and that is saying a lot. The entire paragraph is in fact disingenuous. You make sweeping statements referring to “instructions that JFK himself gave to Lodge afterward” which supposedly make it “crystal clear that the withdrawal was conditioned on the situation on the ground” - without actually identifying what you are referring to or why anybody should accept what you say. I don’t see any “ifs” or “buts” or otherwise conditional language in the approved recommendations. Further, the recommendations were not about “winning the war” as you insist, they were about replacing US personnel with Vietnamese personnel. All you are doing here is repeating Establishment talking points as first set out by Les Gelb in the New York Times in December 1991. While these points seek to contradict the informed commentary of persons such as Fletcher Prouty and John Newman, they fail to address the actual point of contention - which is the understanding of the Kennedy administration’s Vietnam policy as expressed in NSAM 263. Your personal rejection of these “mythical” views relies on a straw-man “unconditional-withdrawal myth”, and the rather questionable opinion that Kennedy would have actually introduced combat forces in Vietnam during his second term. Your commentary in general on the Vietnam War, as expressed on this Forum, reveals a belief the US war effort was in fact a noble endeavour, an opinion shaped by a conservative worldview imbued with a strong, if somewhat antiquated, anti-communist bent. That, it seems to me, is a formula for exactly misunderstanding the Kennedy administration and/or its policies.
  4. The critics of the “JFK” film - that is, the mainstream establishment - attacked (or “pounced on”) the film due to its overarching premise that Kennedy had been assassinated by a far-reaching officially sanctioned conspiracy. Specific reference to Lansdale, Prouty, John Newman etc do not really factor into this equation. In fact, outside of Anson’s Esquire Magazine hatchet-job, I’m not aware of Prouty, Newman, or Lansdale at the time being directly referred at all. The idea that the entire Establishment was prepared to accept a JFK conspiracy hypothesis but pulled back from the abyss solely due to the film’s references to Lansdale, Prouty, and/or Vietnam is, outside of Leslie Gelb’s NY Times op/ed, almost entirely made-up. Similarly, Prouty’s alleged “prolonged and close associations” with the Liberty Lobby milieu in fact consists of a single paid speaking engagement (for The Spotlight) and a contract for a small reprint run (500 copies) of “The Secret Team” (both occurring in September 1990). In context, at the time, both Mark Lane and Dick Gregory spoke at the same conference, Bernard Lewin’s “Report From Iron Mountain” was also reprinted by the same publishing house, and Noam Chomsky lectures on cassette were available from the publisher’s mail-order list.
  5. Relying solely on public statements from the time, one could make a case for either withdrawal or engagement simply by cherry-picking from the self-contradictory record. Critics such as Prouty and Newman look closely at what was done rather than what was said. They give more weight to the production of NSAM 263 - culminating a period of intense concentration on a strategic plan for Vietnam led personally by Kennedy - rather than discourse which may have been subject to electioneering and political persuasion. The intention of 263 is not ambiguous. What is notable with the argument that “JFK never faced” what LBJ “had to confront” - which was first broached in Les Gelb’s NY Times op-ed December 1991) - is that rhetorically it dismisses the withdrawal argument for its presumption regarding the “unknown”, while simultaneously presuming to in fact "know" the “unknown” (i.e. JFK would have reacted the same as LBJ). It also fails to factor the escalatory measures initiated by the Johnson administration, beginning with NSAM 273.
  6. I have no information regarding this. I am not aware of further communications between Prouty and Krulak on this topic. Prouty would most likely have kept such a private matter. The original (1985) communications are authentic.
  7. An accurate timeline relevant to this issue has been offered several times, but is consistently misrepresented by persons who approach the topic as a means of scoring partisan points rather than establishing the facts. Prouty was part of an interested group (I think loosely connected to Richard Sprague) who had access to high-quality 8x10 copies of photos taken in Dealey Plaza. The complete set of “Tramps” photos was part of this collection. This is late 60s/early 70s - second generation pre-HSCA era. Sprague was publishing assassination related articles in his journal Computers and Automation. Prouty would later say he immediately recognized Lansdale in the one photo, but did not speak of it to his colleagues. Prouty, with Sprague collating photos, published his first assassination related article “Guns of Dallas” in 1975. This article features a brief discussion of the Tramp photos (as well as referencing the Military Intelligence stand down later misrepresented by the ARRB panel). No mention of Lansdale. https://www.ratical.org/ratville/JFK/GoD.html Prouty contacted Krulak regarding the Tramp photos in early 1985 - more than a decade after initially viewing the photos. Krulak’s response is dated March 15, 1985. He says: “That is indeed a picture of Ed Lansdale . The haircut, the stoop, the twisted left hand, the large class ring. It's Lansdale. “ To be consistent, at this point the self-styled Prouty critics should be identifying Krulak himself as a “crackpot and fraud.” But they won’t do that because Krulak retains a stellar reputation for personal integrity, and the critics would themselves become the laughing-stocks. So instead they posit, apropos of nothing but their partisan imaginations, that the letter is a “forgery” ( note that in December 1963 Krulak celebrated Prouty’s military career with a Letter of Appreciation for his “outstanding performance of duty”: “your unique knowledge and appreciation of the inner-relationship of political and military factors have contributed materially to the achievement of national objectives…You take with you both the gratitude of your associates and the confident hope that in your forth-coming responsibilities in civilian life you will profit from the same high standards that have characterized your outstanding service with the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” This is the person certain posters on EF claim is an “extreme fringe kook.”) Five years later (March 1990), Prouty writes his “Lansdale hypothesis” letter to Garrison. He doesn’t directly ID Krulak when he writes: “Others who knew Lansdale as well as I did, have said the same thing, ‘That's him and what's he doing there?’ “ Portions of this letter make their way into the "JFK" script. Prouty did however mention in confidence Krulak’s ID to his colleague Harrison Livingstone - who, for reasons of his own, broke Prouty’s trust, publicized the issue, and made a direct cold call to Krulak, who understandably reacted defensively. Krulake, however, did not refute his communication five years previously with Prouty - another matter which is consistently misrepresented by agenda-driven partisans. It was Livingstone who broke this information publicly, not Prouty. Livingstone had been difficult at the time with Stone and the "JFK" office, which Stone refers to in his published response to Esquire's hit piece on the film.
  8. I think Prouty is using a slight bit of sarcasm to sharpen the lens through which the origin of 273 might be best viewed. He also pointed out the draft may have actually been composed on the plane returning from Honolulu. In that case, the request to his brother to show the draft to McNamara sticks out because McNamara was present on the same plane. It was a long flight, why didn’t Bundy just show it to McNamara himself? Your thoughts on why this didn’t and wouldn’t occur are sharply rendered. The utility of having a draft dated November 21, of course, is it could be plausibly labelled, after the fact, a Kennedy administration document. Regarding this draft: “There’s enough there to present the feeling that somehow somebody knew things were going to change.” Prouty interview with John Judge 1992
  9. This is the relevant footnote from the article (36): “I have other copies of this draft document that were done on various typewriters and they certainly indicate that this draft document had to have been quickly circulated through all of the highest governmental levels...on the 21st. On these draft copies there are some notes, and line outs.” Also: “in this original draft that he circulated among many of the top echelons of the Government, with personal ‘Cover Letters’ to the Director of Central Intelligence, John McCone and to his brother William in McNamara's office…” Prouty The Highly Significant Role Played By Two Major Presidential Policy Directives 1997. Collected Works Prouty also identifies a copy “sent to Don Wilson with USIA”. Distribution corroborated (Bundy acknowledges notes and revisions) in Newman's "JFK and Vietnam".
  10. Here is a thread on Lansdale from 2008, with fascinating commentary from Sterling Seagrave, whose book "Gold Warriors" is engrossing. I think Fletcher's "Lansdale Hypothesis" letter to Garrison may have been written under the influence of potent painkillers prescribed for his back surgery. It's a little hyperbolic by his standards. However, one of Seagraves' gems - which may relate to cover stories and red herrings generated in Dealey Plaza - is that one of Lansdale's quirks was a fondness for use of umbrellas in covert ops.
  11. Greg - for the record, Prouty never speculated that “Lansdale killed JFK” or had a direct operational role in the assassination itself. In his letter to Prouty in response to the photo and the Lansdale ID, Krulak asked: “What was he (Lansdale) doing there?” That is a fair question. To the extent that he speculated, Prouty thought Lansdale, using his public relations and covert operations background, may have been assigned to create cover stories and red herrings - such as the bizarre march of the tramps. Of course, Lansdale may have just been there because he was in the area and the President was in town. Or the figure might not be Lansdale at all, and the similar identification points may just be coincidental. In my opinion, although of interest, very little of the important information Prouty had to share hinges in any way on this identification, and it is therefore of secondary value.
  12. It can be said there was a faction within the foreign policy / national security bureaucracy which was not prepared to accept a withdrawal from Vietnam on the terms Kennedy had devised. Being generous, one could say the Bundy draft merely reflected these concerns in a way which kept all options open. On the other hand, and this is what Prouty emphasized, Kennedy’s policy had been fully expressed with NSAM 263 and a dissenting opinion submitted weeks later would not change anything. So why would Bundy go to the trouble of not only writing it up (in the form of a NSAM), but distributing it to a fair number of persons on November 21? There is no record anywhere which shows that Kennedy had asked for, read, or was even aware of Bundy’s draft. I assume the dissenting voice on this thread bases his opposite opinion on material in Selverstone’s book. To assert that Kennedy was prepared to sign 273 is just wishful thinking. Robert, appreciate you putting this together. As my colleague Len Osanic handles the Prouty archive, people share with him various items from the inter-webs when Prouty’s name is invoked. From those non-scientific samplings it has been discernible that a contemporary wave of focussed negativity directed towards Prouty has been an actual “thing” over the past three or four years. At a cursory glance, much of this generates from an equally discernible rehabilitation of Ed Lansdale. For many years, Prouty did not speak publicly of the three tramps photo or Krulak’s confirming ID, but he did share this information confidentially with other researchers. Harrison Livingstone broke Prouty’s confidence, and publicized the Lansdale ID and also directly confronted Krulak, who naturally reacted defensively. Most persons who attack Prouty on this issue are unaware of this background. They are also either unaware or in denial regarding the information about Lansdale’s presence in Denton Texas, which is most relevant and important. Bundy was also the man who called off the late air-strike against Castro’s one remaining jet, thus assuring the failure of the Bay of Pigs operation.
  13. John Newman spoke with McGeorge Bundy in the early 1990s regarding the draft of NSAM 273. Bundy had a fuzzy memory, but did acknowledge he wrote the draft and added, cryptically, of the recommendations: “I tried to bring them in line with the words Kennedy might want to say.” Bundy had been instructed to attend the meeting in Honolulu (November 1963), but it is not known by whom. Bundy wrote up “recommendations” supposedly reflecting a Honolulu consensus in the form of a draft NSAM, but it is not known what motivated him to do so. There is no record anywhere which links Kennedy to the draft of this NSAM. Short of such a confirmation, it is difficult to consider the draft as an expression of “Kennedy administration” policy. This is because there is an established record of the extensive process leading to NSAM 263. There is no evidence of any “process” leading to the 273 draft. What is striking is that the training/withdrawal plan from 263 entirely disappears beginning with the 273 draft, while the 1000 man December 1963 withdrawal remains and is used specifically to promote the idea that there was full continuity in Vietnam policies from Kennedy administration to Johnson administration.
  14. First - no one voted you into a position where you get to declare what is or is not a “fringe claim”. Second - there are distinct differences between utterances which are “factual” and utterances which express an “opinion”. In my observation, you constantly blur the line between the two. Third - your repeated angry attacks against scholars promoting a Kennedy Withdrawal thesis constantly refers to an “unconditional-withdrawal myth”. This “myth” supposedly follows a line such as: “ Kennedy advocated absolute withdrawal no matter what, even if the Communists take over Vietnam”. You generally name Prouty, Newman, DiEugenio, Galbraith, ands even Stone’s “JFK” film as perpetuators of this myth. However, the myth is itself a myth. I have read just about everything Prouty wrote regarding Vietnam and I have never come across anything resembling an advocacy of an “unconditional withdrawal myth”. I have never found any such statement in Newman’s work. Neither does such claim appear in the “JFK” film. When pressed, all you can say is Newman says something like it in the JFK Revisited series (released three decades after Stone’s “JFK” film). He does (in the third episode), but in the context of paraphrasing something SecDef McNamara said during debriefs from his trip to Vietnam with Taylor (Sept 1963). That you bolster this false notion of an “unconditional withdrawal” with rhetoric such as “fringe”, “nutty”,”crackpot” etc establishes only that your “opinions” often arrive with an attached agenda.
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